White Fang's Wild Northland is a harsh and merciless place, where every living being struggles to survive. London illustrates this struggle by showing Bill and Henry's sled dog team mushing across the still and frozen Klondike. Against this cold and desolate expanse, they are the only signs of life. Even so, their sled tows a coffin, an ominous reminder that death could strike at any moment in this perilous place. The image shows the reader that life in the wild maintains a vulnerable existence. The reoccurrence of devastating famines throughout the novel further highlights the uncertainty of life, as well as its fragility.
Since the line between life and death is very thin, White Fang, from an early age, learns that nature's law is simple—"eat, or be eaten." Like his ancestors, he knows this through hunting. He must kill his prey, or risk being eaten, himself, by a bigger, more calculating predator. Because life exists in such a precarious state, man and beast alike must actively struggle to survive. Gray Beaver and his Indian clan must migrate when food runs short in one area and becomes abundant in another. Similarly, both Kiche and White Fang return to the wild when famine hits the Indian camp.
Yet, the struggle for life is most powerfully felt in the battles between rivals. Kiche fights the Lynx to the death in order to save herself and White Fang from its murderous rage, while White Fang struggles to hang on to life against the bulldog's lethal grip. Though death is an ever-present threat, the yearning for life is inborn and strong. White Fang's existence is marked by an intense will to live. As a pup, he longs for the sunshine's life-giving rays. When attacked by the bulldog, White Fang fights for as long as he can. Finally, after his near fatal fight with Jim Hall, White Fang's miraculous recovery shows that his tenacious will to live overcomes all obstacles to life, making him a true survivor. London values this will to live, and glorifies it throughout the novel.
The Struggle for Survival ThemeTracker
The Struggle for Survival Quotes in White Fang
The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted, Northland Wild.
It is not the way of the Wild to like movement. Life is an offense to it, for life is movement; and the Wild aims always to destroy movement.
[Henry] discovered an appreciation of his own body which he had never felt before. He watched his moving muscles and was interested in the cunning mechanism of his fingers.... It fascinated him, and he grew suddenly fond of this subtle flesh of his that worked so beautifully and smoothly and delicately.
In [the she-wolf's] instinct, which was the experience of all the mothers of wolves, there lurked a memory of fathers that had eaten their newborn progeny. It manifested itself as a fear strong within her, that made her prevent One Eye from more closely inspecting the cubs he had fathered.
The life that was so swiftly expanding within [White Fang] urged him continually toward the wall of light.
But there were forces at work in the cub, the greatest of which was growth. Instinct and law demanded of him obedience. But growth demanded disobedience. His mother and fear impelled him to keep away from the white wall. Growth is life, and life is forever destined to make for life.
The aim of life was meat. Life itself was meat. Life lived on life. There were the eaters and the eaten. The law was: EAT OR BE EATEN.
[Men] were molding the clay of him into a more ferocious thing than had been intended by Nature. Nevertheless, Nature had given him plasticity. Where many another animal would have died or had its spirit broken, he adjusted himself and lived, and at not expense of the spirit.
The basic life that was in [White Fang] took charge of him. The will to exist of his body surged over him. He was dominated by this mere flesh-love of life.
[White Fang] did not want to bite the hand, and he endured the peril of it until his instinct surged up in him, mastering him with its insatiable yearning for life.
I agree with you, Mr. Scott. That dog's too intelligent to kill.